• One Arrow, A Thousand Arrows

    As it was explained to me by my teacher, Yogarupa Rod Stryker – the first arrow is the cause of pain. Thousands of arrows are the thousands of stories/worries that spring from the one arrow which turn the pain into suffering.

    Worrying is deeply exhausting. Truly. And worrying is a kind of suffering. Something happens: a mistake, a breakup, an eviction, a death, an accident, or any of the other millions of things that can go wrong on the daily. Let’s say you make a mistake and you leave the house with the oven on. You get three blocks down the road before realizing it. The doggies, or kids, or cats, or guinea pigs are in the house. You run back to turn the damn thing off.

    Pain is the realization you left the oven on. Suffering- the three block walk with all of the ‘what if’ scenarios playing out in your mind; the dramatic reenactment -pointing out that the house could have burned down with the doggies, or the kids, or cats, or guinea pigs not just to your mom, but your partner and your brother; the echoes and echoes of retelling it to yourself the rest of the day and playing out all the gnarly possibilities.

    This teaching has been with me all through this quarantine and pandemic. Worry has been a topic in all my conversations lately. Even with those of us who have not been affected as terribly as others by all of it. Is there something to be done about worrying? 

    There is. It relates to the energetic quality of letting go or release- Apana. But letting go is a frustrating concept, an annoyingly nebulous thing. What does it mean to let go? How do I let go?

    In order to better understand Apana, we must look at its energetic counterpart Prana -our life force, our intake. We must examine where it is going, along with our ability or lack thereof to direct it- dharana. Because Prana will take you where you want to go and also where you don’t want to go. What I mean by that is that it is a forward moving energy, whether you acknowledge it consciously or leave it in the unconscious space. It will get us stuck in the mire just as easily as it will help us fulfill our Dharma, our life’s work. It’s all a matter of direction. If we are moving through the world unconsciously, it is easy to make the one arrow into a thousand. The more we learn about energy, however, we learn that we can refocus it and bring it to where we need it or want it- presence. So you left the oven on, realized it and turned it off. That can be it. End of story. One arrow.

    Practice with Miles LIVE on Omstars

    The more stimulus we take in, the more Prana we exhaust because once we see something, we can’t unsee it. Which means that the only way for that thing to move through our systems is to process it. If it stays in our system unprocessed, it gets stuck in there somewhere. Think of it as gaining energetic weight. If stimulus is food, we need to digest it and secrete it. So think of all the information we are ingesting everyday, constantly, through our senses. Not just in the cities we live in, but news, television, social media, music, images, gossip, conversations…

    Imagine how much more energy we would have if we took better care of what we fed our senses. It can be nourishment, after all. What we are putting in our line of vision, what we are touching, tasting, hearing. Which would in turn affect what and how we are saying things, to ourselves and others. And most importantly, it would help us wrangle and work with our worry as we’d be able to distinguish one arrow from the thousand arrows. What would life be like if we didn’t worry so much?!?!

    Balance is born in and of the natural world. Where samsaras, cycles, play out with ease- unfettered. Yoga, holds this wisdom of the natural world handed down directly from nature through time and space. It is in this way also linked to all the teachings of all of the ancient cultures, which is why many mendicants and sadhus surrender their quotidian city lives for caves.

    Now, I’m not saying leave everything behind and move to the woods though it may also be a good time to do so. As things shift daily through this time, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and overstimulated. If that’s the case with you, take a moment to close your eyes and sit or do something sweet that pulls you out of the fray. Go for a walk, or practice yoga nidra. Find some stillness. We are in a marathon, take a pause to go within. Whatever you are planting during this time will then have more room to blossom. Strip away the unnecessary part of the chaos so that your Prana can remain as buoyant as possible and have a clear charge- allowing you to be steady throughout the insanity.

    “I love listening. It is one of the only spaces where you can be still and be moved at the same time.”
    ~Nayyirah Waheed 

    By Miles Borrero

    Miles Borrero is a NYC-based yoga teacher who has led sought-after retreats and trainings around the world since 2007. A tireless explorer, Miles has done a deep dive into many lineages: Bhakti, Forrest, Parayoga, Om Yoga, Iyengar, Ashtanga. Over the years, these influences have converged to create a unique hybrid style of teaching that is dynamic, creative, and soulful. The athletic physicality that first drew him to the mat has since inspired deeper inquiries in anatomy, as well as cranio-sacral therapy and osteopathy – techniques that delve into the equally magnificent subtle body. As a teacher, Miles is wonderfully skillful and intuitive. He understands technique from the depth of his own practice and is able to articulate it simply and clearly, making it readily accessible to his students. His subtle and powerful insights stay with you past the duration of his classes. And his chants will crack your heart wide open. His love of people is infectious and has translated into building a thriving community and creating inclusive spaces for all. As an anti-racist Latinx and LGBTQ+ trans activist, his hope is to leave the world a bit better than he found it. Check out Miles’ website at http://www.milesyoga.com/. 

  • Discovering Energy

    From pranayama, extending our life force energy, through our senses and then where? We have to ask where did sensation, or feeling, start? Did it start now or when we were a happy single cell without a head, heart, hands? The history of us goes beyond our ability to perceive with the senses and the mind.

    Stop Controlling Your Breath: Controlling the breath was how I first discovered energy. 

    When it comes to the practice of yoga, most of us have heard the word “pranayama.” Breathing is how we often describe pranayama. When we extract the word, it appears as ‘prana’ (energy) and ‘ayama’ (to lengthen or extend). The word “prana” is also made up of two words: ‘pra’ and ‘na’ meaning ‘first or most basic unit’ and ‘measured energy.’ The etymology of pranayama has little to do with breathing and urges us toward sensation. If we alter the most basic unit from breath to sensation, pranayama would be the practices to lengthen self awareness through sensation.

    When we change simple elemental factors (e.g. diet, exercise, sleep and creating a regular schedule around these parts of living) our energy is in repair. Longevity exists in the body energy level throughout the day. We see positive mental and emotional changes in our perception and outlook. The nervous systems changes to accommodate these transitions into this less reactive state. We feel better! Feeling is the sensation. That shift is un-measurable, though we attribute it to positive qualities. People who practice yogasana (postures) report experiencing these shifts within a short period of time.

    Divine Sight: As a child, I would lie in my bed and follow my breath. I would watch spirit float out of my body.

    The methods in which we use to create change can also be the same techniques that confine us. If the diet is too controlled, sleep, etc., we lose the sense of wonder and letting go. My generation grew up on the cutting edge of many underground movements. The common theme in these collectives had little to do with what it looked like but what it felt like. The creative drive in full expression was observing each other letting it go! There was a super vision in letting go–a divine sight! No matter how we slice it, yoga is about the mind. Even if we lead with the heart or heart-centered practices, the mind is what can cut that connection. My first guru, Dharma Mittra, used to give satsang on how we all have clean diets but still think negative thoughts. These thoughts contaminate the system, no matter how clean the diet. I’ve once heard a yogi described as one who is even-minded. This idea does not push the fantasy of a visionary or force one to be super human or holy but to work with the mind (and heart) and create evenness.

    If we turn to scriptures, the path of understanding is through the body (hatha) to get to the mind (raja). Regardless, when we allow practice to take a hold of us, the super power doesn’t come from the advancement of the yoga or meditative tool. Our progress is from the instrument into something new. Work on this with new eyes, into the world and self-discovery! From pranayama, extending our life force energy, through our senses and then where? We have to ask where sensation, or feeling, start? Did it start now or when we were a happy single cell without a head, heart, hands? The history of us goes beyond our ability to perceive with the senses and the mind. The practices we use, the practice we take, the yoga journey we have, takes us beyond the things in which we do. From spirit, I could see myself lying.  I could feel my body and the part of me floating above, in a shared awareness.

    Reality?

    Pantanjali’s most quoted sutra is: “yoga schitta vritti nirodaha.” Swami Vivekananda translates the sutra to: “Yoga is the restraining the mind-stuff (chitta) from taking various form (vrttis).” In yoga circles, training programs, and classrooms, this passage is thrown around. While, rarely a conversation occurs on what happens in this reality. By using a method of control it leads to an absorbed state. Patanjali does explain this level of concentration. The application without modification, will allow the seer (the energy of the one who uses the technique) to peer into the self (nature or natural existence) without the two being crossed.

    In short, through concentration we can inhabit both spirit and form! Yes, we go beyond sense reality into the internal witness. This fold is the stepping-stone toward meditation. It may be separated by a hair (in our casual conversation about the states of awareness) but is colossal in attainment. Although we may not be in a state of deep meditation, deep concentration creates a reality. One where we can see infinite and finite, hand-in-hand, ushering us to explore.

    By Will Duprey

    Read More From Will Duprey

    Will Duprey is an international yoga educator and is known for effortlessly combining classical theory and storytelling with contemporary yoga methods. With over 17 years of teaching and consulting on yoga teacher trainings globally, his unique mentorship program provides deep knowledge and balance among different styles of yoga. Hathavidya is his personal approach to teaching — starting with the individual practice (sadhana), energy (pranayama) and intuitive framework — classical hatha yoga. Will is a contributing writer to publications such as: Elena Brower’s teach.yoga, Kino MacGregor’s OmStars and is a guest columnist for YogaLife Magazine Malaysia. He lives between Vermont and Malaysia. This article was updated from Routine Practice published in October 2018 by Will Duprey.